UNOS Considering Investigation of Hospital Transplant Program, Los Angeles Times Reports
St. Vincent Medical Center CEO Gus Valdespino at a confidential staff meeting said that the United Network for Organ Sharing identified lapses in oversight in St. Vincent Medical Center's liver transplant program, according to anonymous sources who attended the Oct. 5 meeting, the Los Angeles Times reports. The sources also said Valdespino indicated that UNOS is contemplating decertification of the program and is preparing an audit of all transplants performed there within the last five years, according to the Times (Ornstein, Los Angeles Times, 10/20).
The hospital hired private experts to investigate whether the director and assistant director of its liver transplant program acted improperly in a 2003 case. Hospital officials suspended the program upon discovering the case, in which a patient who was 52nd on a regional transplant waiting list received an organ ahead of others.
Hospital officials informed the Department of Health Services of the problem in September, and the agency said it will investigate the matter. In addition, the Medical Board of California last month said it has launched an investigation of the directors of the liver transplant program (California Healthline, 10/13).
If the liver program loses its national certification, the program could be shut down.
St. Vincent hospitals and UNOS declined to comment, the Times reports.
In addition, Senate Finance Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) on Wednesday called for an investigation into the hospital's liver transplant program and the national system for overseeing organ distribution. The committee oversees Medicare and Medicaid, which pay for some transplants.
"I am glad that the problems at St. Vincent have been brought to light, but it should not have taken two years to discover that there was a problem," he wrote in a letter to Elizabeth Duke, administrator of the Health Resources and Services Administration.
Grassley is asking the Department of Justice and the HHS inspector general to look into the alleged violations (Los Angeles Times, 10/20).